Wednesday, June 13, 2007

What is going on?

Stuart Taylor's column from last left me even more puzzled about the Bush administration.

How Not to Make Terrorism Policy
His main point (and it is a very good one) is that Bush and Gonzalez approached the question of torture solely from a legal perspective. That is, they seem never to ask "what is right" or "what works"; only "what does the law permit?"

That flaw was the almost exclusive focus on what could be done to captives as a matter of law—as interpreted by aggressive advocates of virtually unlimited presidential war powers—rather than on what should be done as a matter of morality and policy, taking account of careful cost-benefit analysis and past experience.

The result was that while approving in 2002 and 2003 the use of "extreme physical pressure on captives" during interrogations, the CIA and the White House not only disregarded the lessons of history but also engaged in "little substantive policy analysis or interagency consideration."

The puzzle, to me, is two-headed.

1. They did this at the behest of CIA.

Though former CIA officials dispute this, the CIA had little experience in questioning captives before 9/11, and the White House brushed aside the reservations of many officials at the FBI and in the military, which had far more experience.

A study to which the White House should pay close attention is well under way. A panel of experts commissioned by the advisory Intelligence Science Board suggested in "Educing Information," a 325-page initial public report completed in December, that the harsh methods Bush authorized after 9/11 are unreliable and that CIA interrogators are ill-trained in subtler techniques. Meanwhile, the military's successful use of such subtle techniques to crack the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's inner circle in Iraq is chronicled in riveting detail by Mark Bowden in the May issue of The Atlantic.
Question: Why were they so solicitous of CIA and so dismissive of the FBI and armed forces?

2. They continue to take the political hit on the torture question while CIA skates. In repayment, CIA leaks like a sieve to embarrass the administration. Nevertheless, the White House shows no appetite to rein in an agency that is playing this double-game.

Like i said, it is a puzzlement

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